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Among Women 170: Holy Souls, Holy Bones, and Giving Thanks

Among Women gets ready for thanksgiving as we work our way through this month remembering saints and souls. This episode features the return of Emily Stimpson to the podcast with a peek inside her new book, These Beautiful Bones. This is an interesting take on the everyday ways to live the meaning and message of the theology of the body.

I’m also sharing on the life of St Agatha Kim of Korea whose stirring story or martyrdom from the 19th century that does not seem so far removed in light of the ongoing persecution happening today. 

You’ll also find prayers for thanksgiving and links to help you read Pope Francis’ Lumen Fidei.

Listen to the podcast.

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About Emily’s book:

 

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My column at Patheos: Lumen Fidei’s last chapter = Faith as light in family, cities, culture

My column at Patheos: Lumen Fidei’s last chapter = Faith as light in family, cities, culture

As we conclude the Year of Faith this month, I’m completing my 5-part series at Patheos summarizing Francis’ first encyclical on faith, Lumen Fidei, looking at chapter four. (Check out the new study guide on the document at the bottom of this post.)

Here’s the opening of my latest column at Patheos…

God has our best in mind — always! God sees the eternal city he longs to bring us to one day. Yet at the same time God provides faith for the life we are called to build in our homes, cities, and societies. In this final chapter of Lumen Fidei (LF), Francis explores how faith builds a better world for the sake of all.

Screen Shot 2012-09-26 at 11.39.54 AMFaith is not only a journey, but also “a process of building, the preparing of a place in which human beings can dwell together with one another (LF, 50).” God first built the Creation where humanity could live and flourish. Then he took it a step farther and engaged humanity, calling us into a relationship with himself.

We’ve seen from history that God always builds with the good of his people in mind. God calls us to build with him, and we must do so with faith in God in mind.

The faith of Abraham and the Old Testament peoples was built upon the promises of God and a yearning for their fulfillment: a holy land, a chosen nation, a blessing for the world. The Letter to the Hebrews recalls how their faith was built on God.

“They desired a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city (Heb 11:16).”

Faith builds reliably on the firmness and fidelity of God himself. Faith illuminates all we do, not just for ourselves but for the good of all.

We are designed to think and act like God — for the common good — building families and societies with faith.

Faith makes us appreciate the architecture of human relationships because it grasps their ultimate foundation and definitive destiny in God, in his love, and thus sheds light on the art of building; as such it becomes a service to the common good. Faith is truly a good for everyone; it is a common good. Its light does not simply brighten the interior of the Church, nor does it serve solely to build an eternal city in the hereafter; it helps us build our societies in such a way that they can journey towards a future of hope. (LF, 51)

Families are the building blocks of society that best serve the common good. God’s master plan uses families to bring love to the world.

The first setting in which faith enlightens the human city is the family. I think first and foremost of the stable union of man and woman in marriage. This union is born of their love, as a sign and presence of God’s own love, and of the acknowledgment and acceptance of the goodness of sexual differentiation, whereby spouses can become one flesh (cf. Gen 2:24) and are enabled to give birth to a new life, a manifestation of the Creator’s goodness, wisdom and loving plan. Grounded in this love, a man and a woman can promise each other mutual love in a gesture which engages their entire lives and mirrors many features of faith. Promising love for ever is possible when we perceive a plan bigger than our own ideas and undertakings, a plan which sustains us and enables us to surrender our future entirely to the one we love. Faith also helps us to grasp in all its depth and richness the begetting of children, as a sign of the love of the Creator who entrusts us with the mystery of a new person. (LF, 52)

Truly the vocation of marriage and family life is bigger than what a husband and wife might plan for themselves. Their home is the field where the seeds of God’s plan are sown; it is the where faith is passed on and where children learn to trust in the love of parents, and ultimately trust God too.

This is why it is so important that within their families parents encourage shared expressions of faith which can help children gradually to mature in their own faith (LF, 53).

The encounter with Christ is an indispensible necessity to fruitful family life. Strong Christian marriages give birth and build strong Christians. Homes built on the foundation of Christ provide a secure and firm environment for the conversion of children and their spiritual maturing.

Encountering Christ, letting themselves be caught up in and guided by his love, enlarges the horizons of existence, gives [life] a firm hope which will not disappoint. Faith is no refuge for the fainthearted, but something which enhances our lives. It makes us aware of a magnificent calling, the vocation of love. It assures us that this love is trustworthy and worth embracing, for it is based on God’s faithfulness which is stronger than our every weakness (LF, 53).

Read the rest at my column on Patheos.

To catch up with the series I wrote on Lumen Fidei, you can find the introduction here, and my earlier articles on Chapter 1, Chapter 2, and Chapter 3.

Go here to subscribe to my column by email or RSS.

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EXCELLENT RESOURCE!! Master Catechist and Ave Maria Press author, Jared Dees, has a great study guide on Lumen Fidei. Now you can do a personal study on this encyclical, or do a group study in your home or church! Don’t miss this study guide!

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Faith, Fiat, and Fidelity to a Catholic Way of Thinking and Living

So I’ve been reading Francis’ encyclical and writing about it over at Patheos. My latest piece on Lumen Fidei’s chapter three is up over at my column, A Word in Season.

I’d like to zero in on one section of chapter three that I write about in the longer piecethe unity of faith is the unity of the Church. The unity of our faith — that we Catholic Christians assert to believing in the deposit of faith that has been handed on since the time of Christ and the Apostles — is the source of our communion, our belonging to God and to one another. We are made for communion with one another by virtue of our human dignity, and by virtue of our baptism we are especially made for communion with God and the Church. The unity of the Church depends on its members believing in the same profession of faith, and its tenets that flow from that.

Allow me to quote a portion of it here.

True believers understand that Church presents a unity of faith and an integrity of faith. St Paul taught “There is one body, and one Spirit… one faith (Eph. 4:4-5).” This faith unites all believers to a common vision; “we receive a common gaze (LF, 47)”.

This is a further development of the idea that we do not live the faith alone, and cannot live it in a vacuum. This common faith brings us into communion — a unity of faith — with one another.

By professing the same faith, we stand firm on the same rock, we are transformed by the same Spirit of love, we radiate one light and we have a single insight into reality. (LF, 47)

This unity in faith is derived from the integrity of what we believe. This faith is consistent and does not change. It is we who are changed by it. This is one of the primary roles of the institutional Church, to be the guardian of the deposit of faith, and to be on mission to share it with the world.

The faith is based on the whole truth handed down with integrity from the Apostles, with the continuity and assurance of the Holy Spirit, as Jesus himself guaranteed.

Since faith is one, it must be professed in all it purity and integrity. Precisely because all the articles of faith are interconnected to deny one of them, even those that seem least important, is tantamount to distorting the whole. Each period of history can find this or that part of faith easier or harder to accept: hence the need for vigilance in ensuring that the deposit of faith is passed on in its entirety (Cf. 1 Timothy 6:20) and that all aspects of the profession of faith are duly emphasized. (LF, 48)

When I read these lines from Lumen Fidei, I am challenged and reminded that we must not fall into a kind of “cafeteria Catholicism” that rejects the integrity of faith that the Church has maintained. Tempting as it might be, we cannot select what doctrines of Catholic belief we wish to believe and live by, as if we were selecting items from an a la carte menu.

Further, we reject the unity of faith when we choose to ignore or live without certain beliefs; we are breaking our communion with God and with each other. If we forsake the unifying and universally Catholic way in order to go our own way, we make our preferences into a god of our choosing. We oppose rather than trust the God who first chose us. We bring discord, disunion, and disintegration of the one faith and one Church.

Francis goes so far as to suggest that our unity of faith indicates our unity with the Church, and without it, we are breaking the bonds that Christ died to create.

Indeed, inasmuch as the unity of faith is the unity of the Church, to subtract something from the faith is to subtract something from the veracity of communion… harming the faith means harming communion with the Lord. (LF, 48.)

This is a stirring measure with which to examine our own hearts and minds to discover the real depth of our faith and true communion with Christ and the Church.

Read the whole thing if you have time.

This is the great invitation of our faith, and the very essence of being Catholic Christians: To belong to God and to one another — universally connected to the God who made us, and to all of creation.

Lumen Fidei affirms that there have always been periods of history where some tenets of the faith have been harder for some people to accept than others. When we think of our world today, we probably both can name certain beliefs that the Church holds that folks have trouble with today, or just clearly want to reject for any number of reasons. A wise priest once preached that the Gospel is meant to comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable. Us having to wrestle with certain dogmas or doctrines is not a new thing. But wrestle we must.

This communion idea — a common vision and a common life — is a countercultural message in a world that glorifies individualism to a fault.

Our society celebrates our self-made separateness, our freedom to do as we please, and to believe in whatever suits our fancy, and live according to our own rules. Many people, including many Catholics, reject the idea of our being subject to another’s authority, much less the Church’s. Yes, I know church members themselves have made a poor showing of the Gospel message. Yet even with all the times that I can acknowledge that both church leadership and church members have made grievous mistakes that must break God’s heart, we Catholics continue to assert that the Holy Spirit guides and leads and upholds the fundamental framework that is the Church, in message and in mission. That means, even though the human side of the Church can mess things up pretty badly, the divine side is worthy of all our trust and belief. We see this in the Church’s prolonged 2000 year history. Something bigger than herself keeps her afloat.

Here’s what I’m getting at: When we debunk the authority of the Church, we debunk the Holy Spirit’s hidden yet profound guidance contained therein. We need the power of God (through graces) to live out the Christian life. When we separate ourselves from the source of grace (the Church and her sacraments), God doesn’t lose, we lose. And the Holy Spirit grieves this. We need the Church and we need to be church.

I see this as one of the great needs of the new evangelization – to find ways to repair the breach between our faith and our daily lives, and between our personal faith lives and our unity with the church. There is an ache in my heart for every one who something along the lines of “I’m a Catholic but I just don’t buy it all. I love the Mass, but I don’t believe in ________.”

All of us must ask ourselves the penetrating questions: if the faith has been passed on to us, has it indeed taken hold in our own lives?

Are we changed and transformed by it in such a way as to desire to conform our minds, hearts, and wills to the Lord and his Church in gratitude for all he has done for us?

Do we hold tight to some tenets of the faith while discarding others? Are there doctrines we choose not believe, seemingly carving an idol of our opinion as superior to what is held by the universal Church? Do we profess the faith only marginally or just part of the time? As opposed to the full gospel all the time?

Do we live from that deep place of gratitude, and knowing our faith is inseparable from the faith of the Church?

The Church holds that there is an indissoluble union between Christ and his Church, if we reject something that the Church teaches, it is almost like asking which part of Christ would we prefer to live without? How could we reject any part of HIM?

We need to grow in fidelity to Christ and the Church. That means we need to find ways to mend the disunity and the disconnection we may have with the Church, to be Christians full time, even as we wrestle, and struggle, and wonder if we can really submit to all that is required? The Holy Spirit will help us. Just like the Holy Spirit flowed through Mary’s yes, her fiat, to say yes to God’s ways and not our own.

Don’t be discouraged: I’m so encouraged the Church calls us to on-going conversion… that it takes time to grow in faith and love with all God calls us to be and do.

Here’s something else that is encouraging:  Francis’ recent homily of consecrating the world to Our Lady… the woman of the radical yes to God, the fiat…. 

Mary said her “yes” to God: a “yes” which threw her simple life in Nazareth into turmoil, and not only once. Any number of times she had to utter a heartfelt “yes” at moments of joy and sorrow, culminating in the “yes” she spoke at the foot of the Cross. Here today there are many mothers present; think of the full extent of Mary’s faithfulness to God: seeing her only Son hanging on the Cross. The faithful woman, still standing, utterly heartbroken, yet faithful and strong.

And I ask myself: am I a Christian by fits and starts, or am I a Christian full-time? Our culture of the ephemeral, the relative, also takes its toll on the way we live our faith. God asks us to be faithful to him, daily, in our everyday life. He goes on to say that, even if we are sometimes unfaithful to him, he remains faithful. In his mercy, he never tires of stretching out his hand to lift us up, to encourage us to continue our journey, to come back and tell him of our weakness, so that he can grant us his strength. This is the real journey: to walk with the Lord always, even at moments of weakness, even in our sins. Never to prefer a makeshift path of our own. That kills us. Faith is ultimate fidelity, like that of Mary.

 

Among Women 167: Taking Issue with Idols… an interview with Elizabeth Scalia

Among Women 167: Taking Issue with Idols… an interview with Elizabeth Scalia

This episode of Among Women features a return visit from The Anchoress — author-blogger Elizabeth Scalia, discussing themes from her new book,  Strange Gods: Unmasking the Idols in Everyday LifeIn this interview we talk about rooting out hidden forms of idolatry in our own lives in order to deepen our faith in Christ.1-59471-342-1

I also share some of my favorite themes from Lumen Fidei – Pope Francis’ first encyclical letter. Also, discover inspiration from the life story of Blessed Anna Schaeffer who, despite tragic injuries that caused lifelong pain and suffering, found the keys to hope and faith.

Find out how you can win a copy of Strange Gods by listening to the whole episode here. Or find Among Women, episode 167, on iTunes. 

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Photo above: Elizabeth and I, last summer, at the Catholic New Media Conference in Dallas. Don’t miss Elizabeth’s return to the Catholic New Media Conference in Boston next month!

 

Faith’s Eyes See a New Reality… more on Francis’ “Lumen Fidei”

My Patheos series on Pope Francis’ first encyclical on faith, Lumen Fidei, continues…

All church teaching is based on Scripture, and chapter one of Pope Francis’ Lumen Fidei (LF) is no exception; its over-arching theme is from St. John’s First Epistle, “We know and believe the love God has for us” (cf. 1 Jn 4:16). Memorize that verse and you’ll have a very good definition of faith in the Christian life. Knowing and believing are the head and heart components of faith.

A powerful secondary theme that chapter one, “We Have Believed in Love,” introduces is that when one has faith one has the basis of understanding reality. That is, the “new eyes” of faith detect and experience God and discern the deepest meanings of life. Several selections from chapter one bear this out as it examines the profound history of faith, beginning with our “father in faith,” Abraham, and finding its completion in God’s Incarnate Son, Jesus Christ.

Read the entire piece here, and read the introduction to the series here. Subscribe to my column by RSS or email here. 

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Remembering

Remembering

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I went to Mass today to remember. To pray for the loved ones we lost as families, as states, as a nation on 9/11/2001. I met up with a friend for coffee and I recalled to her the times in my youth I heard survivors of World War Two complain to us youngsters about not remembering the December 7th attack on Pearl Harbor long ago, and other similar dates. I get what those complaints were all about, now that I am older. I have a renewed appreciation for honoring anniversaries of tragic loss.

How important it is that we not only remember those that have died, and the calamities we may suffer, but keep them in perspective by keeping close the memory of what is to come. Faith allows us to begin to fathom and make sense of this, our present moment.

How appropriate the lines from Scripture in today’s Mass from St Paul… to illuminate the truth of all we believe… to remember that our life with Christ calls us to look up, to look beyond, to see with new eyes of faith…

If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ your life appears,
then you too will appear with him in glory.

-Colossians 3: 1-4-

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I remember what a clear blue sky we had on September 11, 2001. Like the flag gently luffing in the easy breezy sky in the photo I took while sailing on vacation this summer. The light pierces the colors of the flag and sharpens our gaze. Like Francis, says, “the light of faith is unique, since it is capable of illuminating every aspect of human existence. (Lumen Fidei, par 4.)”

This makes me think… about my first love of Jesus and the faith that came from that

Faith is born of an encounter with the living God who calls us and reveals his love, a love which precedes us and upon which we can lean for security and for building our lives. Transformed by this love, we gain fresh vision, new eyes to see; we realize that it contains a great promise of fulfillment, and that a vision of the future opens up before us. Faith, received from God as a supernatural gift, becomes a light for our way, guiding our journey through time. On the one hand, it is a light coming from the past, the light of the foundational memory of the life of Jesus which revealed his perfectly trustworthy love, a love capable of triumphing over death. Yet since Christ has risen and draws us beyond death, faith is also a light coming from the future and opening before us vast horizons which guide us beyond our isolated selves towards the breadth of communion. We come to see that faith does not dwell in shadow and gloom; it is a light for our darkness.

-Pope Francis-

From his first encyclical, Lumen Fidei, paragraph 4.

My Column at Patheos has me working my way through Lumen Fidei (Francis’ first encyclical)

My Column at Patheos has me working my way through Lumen Fidei (Francis’ first encyclical)

As the Year of Faith continues, I thought it wise to study and reflect on Francis’ first encyclical specially geared to teach on faith. This encyclical letter was much anticipated and begun by Benedict XVI, and was subsequently completed and released under Francis. It was released at the end of June, just in time for my summer vacation. But I’m back! And happy to share a few quotes from it —  the “greatest hits” imho — that I find there.

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Today, at my column at Patheos, I begin a series reflecting on each of the parts of this wise and easy-to-digest catechesis on faith. As you might expect, the document is filled with scripture. I give you a snippet below of a particular verse that moved me…

One verse from Scripture cited in Lumen Fidei struck me with unusual power, to see it with new eyes.

On the eve of his passion, Jesus assured Peter: “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail (Lk 22: 32).”

What a momentous statement.

So often Christians think about the action of our prayers being made to God. Yet in this instance, the Lord and the Light of the World, offers an intentional and personal prayer for an arrogant and blundering fisherman in Peter. The gospels have numerous instances of Jesus at prayer. But in this short verse we get a vision of God who prays for us! Jesus has each of us in mind before we utter a word or thought of the heart.

In this clear intercession – I have prayed for you – Jesus pins hope on Peter’s faith, but it is not fainthearted. Jesus backs it with his power and light. Jesus entrusts this faith, by turn, on the followers to come after Peter, as they too will be transformed by the light of faith.

I now imagine this word of God applying to me. I see Jesus praying for my faith, the virtue infused at my baptism. To assist me in not failing, Jesus has given me brothers and sisters in the church, along with the graces of the sacraments, to insure it. This, indeed, is the faith born of encounter with Jesus: it brightens one’s path, and opens “vast horizons” that lead “beyond our isolated selves towards the breadth of communion.” It is a faith that “enriches life in all its dimensions (LF, par 6.)”

Read the whole article at my column, “A Word in Season”, on Patheos.

To subscribe to my column at Patheos via RSS or to get the whole series delivered to your email inbox, go here.

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Photos: Top cover photo: me and a cardboard cut-out of Francis at Catholic Marketing Network, near the Ignatius Press booth.

Mid text: Screen shot from news.va